Definition & Facts for Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
What is PSC?
Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a chronic disease in which the bile ducts inside and outside the liver become inflamed and scarred, and are eventually narrowed or blocked. When the bile ducts are narrowed or blocked, bile builds up in the liver and causes liver damage. This damage can lead to cirrhosis and eventually liver failure. Medical experts believe that PSC is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system is overactive and attacks normal, healthy bile duct cells.
How common is PSC?
Researchers estimate that about 6 to 16 people out of 100,000 have PSC.1 However, this estimate may be low because not all people who have PSC are diagnosed with the disease.2
Who is more likely to get PSC?
You are more likely to get PSC if you
- are between the ages of 30 and 50
- are a man
- have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), most commonly ulcerative colitis
- have a family member who has PSC
What other health problems do people with PSC have?
People with PSC may have other health problems, including
About 7 out of 10 people who have PSC also have IBD.3
What are the complications of PSC?
Complications of PSC include
- low levels of fat-soluble vitamins
- bile duct infection
- liver failure
- bile duct cancer
- gallbladder cancer
People with PSC and IBD have a greater chance of getting colorectal cancer.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
The NIDDK would like to thank:
Keith D. Lindor, M.D., Arizona State University